Writing for success: Printing, examinations, and intellectual change in late ming China

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The lower cost of printing offered new ways for publishers to exploit the book market by publishing more new types of examination aids. The ex­ aminees became increasingly dependent on printed books to enhance their chances of success in the civil service examinations. To attribute the ignorance of the candidates to their dependence on the model essays, as did Ku Yen-wu and Huang Tsung-hsi, oversimplifies the complex reading practice of the examinees in the late Ming. The examinees read more than just the model essays. We have a general idea of what the examinees read to prepare for the civil service examinations. The advertisement of books is a reliable source of information on how commercial publishers targeted their readers. In 1591 Yu Hsiang-tou, a prolific publisher from the famous printing center Chien-yang in Fukien, published a book with an advertisement listing a num­ ber of published and forthcoming books, and told the reader that they were “published exclusively for examination.” The list includes Classics, histories, poetry anthology, examination model essays, and six commentaries on the Four Books.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe History of the Book in East Asia
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages38
ISBN (Electronic)9781351888356
ISBN (Print)9781409437819
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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